Greenburgh to Lose $1.2 Million Annually
On Friday, September 30th, a 20-year partnership between Westchester County, WestHelp and Greenburgh came to an end. Last year the Westchester County Executive announced plans to close down WestHelp; the transitional facility that served the homeless population. WestHelp was located on a six-acre county property adjacent to Westchester Community College. The organization, which provides transitional services to the homeless, was started by Andrew Cuomo, when his father was Governor.
During the past twenty years WestHelp has helped hundreds of families transition from homeless to productive members of the community. Over the years, I have received very few complaints from residents who lived near the homeless facility.
At the time WestHelp was built, the county agreed to turn over the property to the town after the original lease expired. The town can collect rent for 30 years and acts as a landlord for the property. After the first 10-year lease expired WestHelp paid the town $1.2 million a year in rent. It was a win-win situation. WestHelp continued to serve the homeless population in Greenburgh and our taxpayers benefitted from the rental income. We had worked out an agreement with the civic association and the Valhalla School District to give some of the income to the school district. That was found improper by the State Comptroller. Now that WestHelp is not serving the homeless population, the town stands to lose $1.2 million a year; money that was used to keep taxes lower in both the unincoporated section of the town and the villages.
The town needs the revenue from WestHelp. We are currently negotiating a new sublease agreement for the remaining lease term with a not-for-profit organization that is Westchester-based that would provide housing and educational services for approximately 35 developmentally disabled children and adults. We had issued a request for proposals (RFPs) for the use of the property earlier this year. There was some interest in the property from colleges (for college dorms), veterans (to house veterans on the property), and affordable housing organizations (low income/affordable housing). Ferncliff indicated to the town, if we leased the property to them, that they would be able to pay the town close to $1 million yearly. They would provide housing and educational services for 35 developmentally disabled children and adults.
We have been negotiating with Ferncliff Manor for a number of months. They need state approvals and also need county approval to extend the terms of the master lease and modification of lease provisions limiting the property's use to low-income housing. We have been discussing Ferncliff's needs with the county regarding modifications to the master lease and expect to receive a decision soon. We believe there is a good chance that an agreement will be reached.
As of September 30th we are no longer receiving any rental income from WestHelp or from the county. We hope to finalize a rental agreement with Ferncliff soon, so we can start receiving the rent that is needed by the town. The following is a summary of the mission statement, philosophy and history of Ferncliff Manor, an organization that has a very good reputation in the county.